Unsustainable Herm: Are Athletics an Exception?

As BluStorm hand dryers replace increasingly rare paper towel dispens- ers, one place clearly remains un- touched by change: the realm of ath- letics.

The presence of paper towel dis- pensers in locker rooms may seem in- consequential, but they are representative of how the athletic department is lagging behind in campus sustainability efforts.

Through my experiences with volleyball and softball at EMU, as well as the stories of numerous friends in athletics, I find environmentally destructive practices distressingly abundant.

While ideas are formed for green buildings, gardens are planted, and ef- forts are made to compost food scraps, the athletic department is filled with wasted resources. Recycling bins can be found throughout University Com- mons, but not in the locker rooms.

Gatorade is served at home games and practices in one-time use paper cups. Teams drink bottled water and Gatorade while traveling instead of using their reusable and labeled wa- ter bottles. The majority of this plastic does not make it to a recycling bin.

Excessive amounts of ice bags are used and then discarded in trash cans. To give an idea of the volume, an average athlete may use two ice bags per day, six days a week for an entire sea- son.

Environmental and financial costs of travel are expectedly high, but here too many resources are wasted. For example, last year the girl’s basketball team of 11 players and several coach- es took a charter bus to Bridgewater.

So why are athletics so far behind?

A lot of the waste is generated simply due to the nature of athletics. For example, not much can be done to prevent athletic tape and pre-wrap from being discarded.

The demographic make-up of athletic teams is also a factor. Value systems are significantly different between the majority of athletes and the students leading sustainability initiatives on campus.

Athletes tend to not have the same level of concern for environmental issues. Many decisions are left to individual coaches who do not make sustainability a priority. Administration could take measures to encourage teams to make changes, but has not.

While some things cannot be changed there are many that can. Towels can be labeled and used more than once, teams can get more use from their reusable water bottles, and steps can be taken to find an alternative to disposable plastic ice bags.

Some people may not be concerned with the environmental costs of their actions, but these changes could have financial benefits as well. Choos- ing to take 15-passenger vans cuts down on the carbon foot print of travel, and is more cost-effective.

Change will take the initiative of my fellow athletes in cooperation with coaches and administration. Let us get started.

Mattie Lehman is a sophomore history major who wants to make playing volleyball sustainable.

Mattie Lehman

Categories: Opinion

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